CoFounder interview with Readly CEO

By Tarmo Virki | Readly | May 3, 2021

We sat down to speak with Maria Hedengren, CEO at Readly, the Swedish startup, which defines itself as the European category leader for digital subscription services for magazines providing “all-you-can-read” access to a portfolio of more than 5,000 titles and approximately 140,000 issues from 900 publishers and with users in more than 50 markets.

How was Readly born?

The idea for Readly began by a pool in Cyprus in the spring of 2012 when Readly’s founder, Joel Wikell, was on vacation with his family. He got the idea when reading all the magazines he brought for his holiday. As a passionate reader, and with his own experience both from publishing and founding other tech companies, he wanted an easy-access digital solution to read magazines, anywhere and anytime. The first string of code was written later that same year.

What makes Readly special among other magazine apps?

What sets Readly apart from other alternatives is inter alia a combination of the breadth and depth of the content library, and a deep understanding of user behaviors, which puts Readly in a very advantageous position. Readly also has a broad international portfolio from 11 countries, which is highly appreciated by our readers. 20% of titles opened on our platform are coming from another country than the country in which the subscriber resides.  

Early on we have focused and developed strong relationships with the publisher side. Publishers using Readly can access +34bn data points with first-hand user statistics, which enables them to become even more data-driven in executing both their content and overall business strategies.

In terms of competition, the fiercest element for many, as for us, is competing for consumers’ time and attention. Looking at our numbers this is something we are succeeding with quite well. Readly subscribers spend on average almost 7 hours monthly reading magazines on our platform. We also believe that other players can help grow the overall market since they will join us in uncovering the digital reading experience. 

What have been the biggest struggles? How has pandemics impacted your industry?

The pandemic is affecting the way we consume media and the effects of the pandemic are very tangible for the magazine industry. The print magazine market is expected to contract at a faster pace than what was previously forecasted.

Magazine circulation revenue constitutes the majority of the overall market and digital penetration in that segment is still about 10 percent. Although the overall industry sees noticeable effects, this means opportunities for Readly as the demand for digital content accelerates. However, our overall attitude and the aim is always to support the industry as a whole by supporting the publishers with more digital reach, more revenue, and more data, and not to benefit at their expense. . Our biggest struggle at Readly at the moment is that there are so many opportunities and great innovations we want to launch but not enough hours in a day. 

Where are you heading next?

Our main focus is to continue to meet our set financial targets, grow our subscriber base, offer best in class content and build Readly’s brand awareness. We will continue to invest in our product development as well as  brand recognition. Our focus now is to further grow both in existing markets and over time enter new markets, both in and outside Europe.

We expect the digital penetration of magazines to reach that of other media industries over time, such as music and film. Readly will continue to lead the digital magazine transformation.

Cover photo by Magnus Glans